State Fruit: Scuppernong Grape

Written By Jessica Lee Thompson

The first actively cultivated grape in the United States, the Scuppernong grape was named the official State Fruit by the General Assembly in 2001. The scuppernong grape was named after the Scuppernong River that runs through Tyrell and Washington counties. The “Mother Vine,” estimated to be over 400 years old and covering half an acre on Roanoke Island, produces scuppernong grapes and was likely cultivated by the Croatoans and later by early North Carolina settlers.

 The scuppernong grape’s popularity spread outside of North Carolina in the early 1800s. Thomas Jefferson was a notable admirer of the scuppernong grape, ordering a 30-gallon barrel of “the pure juice of the grape” in June 1823. By the 1840s North Carolina had gained national recognition for its wine production. At the turn of the twentieth century, Halifax vintner Paul Garrett won accolades abroad and within the United States for his “Special Champagne” and scuppernong wines. Garrett’s “Virginia Dare” wine was once the most popular wine in the United States.

 Today, Duplin Winery, founded by David and Dan Fussell, produces multiple varieties of muscadine wine, including scuppernong. Duplin Winery traces the recipe for its sparkling scuppernong wine to a recipe “developed from an article written by Sidney Weller in 1853,” which they claim “to be the oldest and best champagne produced in America.” In 2007, The North Carolina Governor’s office reported that North Carolina ranked tenth nationally in grape and wine production, an industry worth $813 million dollars a year in North Carolina.